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Mosque group 'in a line to jihad'

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23135644-2702,00.html

Natalie O'Brien | January 31, 2008

THE Islamic group accused of trying to seize control of Sydney's Sefton mosque is part of a movement described as a recruiting ground for al-Qa'ida in a new terrorism intelligence report.

The group attempting the takeover has members who follow the Tablighi Jamaat stream of Islam, described this week bythe private US intelligence group Stratfor as an "indirect line to terrorism".

Members of the Tablighi movement have recently been linked to a terrorist cell in Spain that was planning a bomb attack in Barcelona.

During a series of raids last week, Spanish police seized bomb-making materials and arrested 14 men who were said to be members of the Tablighi.

The Stratfor report says that on the surface, the Tablighi is a peaceful, egalitarian and devotional movement stressing faith and personal development, but it has links to the world of jihadism.

"The TJ organisation also serves as a de facto conduit for Islamist extremists and for groups such as al-Qa'ida to recruit new members," the report says.

It is used by jihadis as a cover for both recruiting activities and for travel. "Significantly, the Tablighi recruits do intersect with the world of radical Islamism when they travel to Pakistan to receive their initial training," it says.

Western intelligence agencies, including Britain's MI5 and the FBI in the US, have been monitoring the activities of the group.

However, the Stratfor report points out that the organisation "unintentionally" serves as a front for or conduit to militant organisations.

"There is no evidence that the Tablighis act willingly as a global jihadist recruiting arm."

Members of the Tablighi in Sydney have been accused of attempting to oust the imam at the Sefton mosque, in Sydney's southwest, so they can take control and bring in their own Tablighi sheik.

Attempts by the The Australian to contact Talbighi for a response were last night unsuccessful.

Trouble at the mosque began last year and spilled over into legal action, resulting in the Bankstown Magistrates Court being told that the power struggle was about the Tablighi members staging a takeover.

Lawyer Richard Mitry successfully overturned an apprehended violence order against the Sefton imam, Abdul Karim Quasimi, telling the court the order forcing him to stay away from his home and the mosque had nothing to with fears for personal safety and was all about a takeover by an extremist group.

The Stratfor report says there is information that once the recruits are in Pakistan, radical groups including the Taliban and al-Qa'ida actively woo them and offer them military training.

John Walker Lindh, the American jailed for 20 years for fighting with the Taliban, had initially travelled to Pakistan with the Tablighi.

The sect has also been linked to two of the July 7 London bombers, the failed shoe bomber Richard Reid, the so-called dirty bomber Jose Padilla, who was planning an attack in the US, and Lyman Harris, who was planning an attack on the Brooklyn bridge.

Members of the Lackawanna Six terror cell in the US travelled to Pakistan on the pretence of studying Islam and culture at the Tablighi training centre.

However, they travelled through Pakistan to Afghanistan and trained at al-Qa'ida's infamous al-Farooq camp.

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